[an error occurred while processing this directive]
BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
Last Updated: Thursday, 26 May, 2005, 09:14 GMT 10:14 UK
Parents 'must tackle teen births'
Image of pregnant woman
The pregnancy rate in under 16s has risen
Government can do no more to reduce the UK's high teen pregnancy rate without the help of parents, the families and children's minister has warned.

The news comes as latest figures show the rate of pregnancies in under-16s in England and Wales has increased by 1%.

In 2003, there were 8,076 pregnancies among this age group.

Beverley Hughes said that parents needed to put aside any embarrassment and start talking to their children about sex.

Parent power

She told the Guardian newspaper: "We really need parents to now see themselves as making an absolutely unique and vital contribution to this issue.

"It is a contribution that I don't think anyone else can actually make."

Supporting parents in this is essential. Many find it very difficult to talk about these issues
A spokeswoman from the Family Planning Association

Ms Hughes said it was not a case of "over to you" but about encouraging and supporting parents to take an active role.

Speaking about the latest statistics, a government spokeswoman said: "They show that teenage pregnancy is one of the most difficult issues facing society today - but it's also one of the most complex.

"We know that where young people talk openly with their parents that they begin having sex later and are more likely to use contraception."

The issue was highlighted this week by the case of three young sisters in Derby.

One became pregnant at 12, and the others at 14 and 16.

Ms Hughes described the case as a "tragic loss of opportunity".

In 2000, the government pledged to halve the rate by 2010.

Earlier this year, the government launched a campaign to target areas with the highest teenage pregnancy rates, such as Lambeth, Blackpool and Nottingham.

Across England, it pledged there would be more sex education training for teachers and healthcare workers under the strategy.

Teenagers would be taken to nurseries to teach them about the responsibilities of parenting.

And young mothers would be encouraged to go back to school or work to help hit the government's other 2010 target of reducing the risk of long term social exclusion by 60%.

Hot spots

Britain has the highest rate of teenage pregnancies in Western Europe.

In urban areas, which account for the majority of the hot spots, as many as one in 10 young girls become pregnant.

Around 20% of conceptions among under 18s are second pregnancies.

But the latest figures show the conception rate for girls aged 15-17 has gone down slightly, from 42.8 pregnancies per 1,000 girls in 2002 to 42.3 per 1,000 girls in 2003.

Some believe more sex education and family planning is the way forward, but others say this is fuelling the problem and abstinence is the answer.

A spokeswoman for the Family Planning Association said: "We very much support the role of parents in sex and relationship education. They are a vital part of the equation and supporting parents in this is essential.

"Many parents find it very difficult to talk about these issues and too often they sit down and have one conversation with the child when they are 14, by which time it is actually too late.

"It should be integrated into normal conversation in family life - very simple bits of information when the child is younger and the conversation can elaborate and grow as they get older."

She said there should also be compulsory sex and relationship education in schools.

Jan Barlow, Chief Executive of Brook, warned that if it was left to parents alone, many young people would continue to fall through the net.

The Independent Advisory Group on Teenage Pregnancy said parents, teachers, school nurses and GPs must all get involved.

Shadow Health Secretary Andrew Lansley said the statistics suggested the government would fail to meet its sexual health targets.

LIFE said the teenage pregnancy crisis would only be effectively tackled when teenagers were given sex and relationships education that gave them a sense of self worth and empowered them to delay sexual activity until they were in a committed and loving relationship such as marriage.

Strategy 'tackles teen pregnancy'
16 Feb 05 |  Northern Ireland
How can teen pregnancies be reduced?
26 May 05 |  Have Your Say

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites


News Front Page | Africa | Americas | Asia-Pacific | Europe | Middle East | South Asia
UK | Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature | Technology | Health
Have Your Say | In Pictures | Week at a Glance | Country Profiles | In Depth | Programmes
Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific